Australia

Run home: AFL unveils final five rounds of home-and-away season

Richmond will not have to travel to Perth to face the West Coast Eagles while the postponed clash between Essendon and Melbourne has been pencilled in for round 18, under the AFL's second compressed fixture released on Friday.

The league has unveiled a fixture block of matches on 18 of 19 days between rounds 14 and 17, coming as the initial block of 33 matches over 20 days through rounds nine to 12 draw to a close on Monday when the Tigers and the Gold Coast clash at the Gabba.

Round 18, the final round of the home-and-away campaign, was also released but will remain a "floating fixture", with game times to be confirmed closer to the round, ensuring the matches with most interest are given prime-time display.

The potentially intriguing round-18 match ups which could dictate top-eight positions include Collingwood versus Port Adelaide, Essendon versus Melbourne and St Kilda versus Greater Western Sydney.

Matches in this updated period will be held in Adelaide, Perth, the Northern Territory and Queensland, including three in Cairns. Ten teams will have byes in the rounds 14 to 17 block.

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That the Tigers will face the Eagles at Metricon Stadium is an advantage for the defending champions, with those clubs playing the second of two matches that kick off the second "festival of football" on Thursday, August 27. The Bombers and Hawks will meet in the earlier match, at Adelaide Oval.

Collingwood will tackle Carlton and the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in rounds 14 and 15.

Perth's Optus Stadium will host its final home-and-away match in round 14, before the Dockers and Eagles leave their state.

Travis Auld, the AFL's chief of clubs and broadcasting, said this latest block of matches had been the most challenging yet.

“In many ways this block of games has been the most challenging to complete, given the intricacies of a compression phase combined with the reduced flexibility attached to the back end of the fixture. Every aspect of the fixture has a flow on impact at this point which makes achieving the right balance of factors and constraints especially difficult.” he said.

“These are unprecedented times and the fixture this year has reflected the unique challenges presented across season.”

Auld said clubs and players were enjoying playing more often, and this was represented in a spike in average audience numbers.

"The feedback from clubs, players, broadcasters and fans has been supportive of the initial compression phase of rounds nine to 12. Clubs and players are enjoying playing more often and viewership remains very strong, with the average audience per game up 14 per cent," he said.

“Scheduling a second compression phase allows us to again play more matches in a shorter period of time as the majority of clubs continue to live in a hub environment."

In the run home to the finals, the Eagles will have two four-day breaks, while Melbourne, Fremantle, Carlton, St Kilda, Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane have one.

“Across both compression periods, no club will have more than three four-day breaks," Auld said.

“In constructing this block of matches, we have focused on ensuring the teams with four-day breaks are, where possible, minimising travel in and around those matches. As in the previous compression period, teams who have four-day breaks in this block will not play against a team who is coming off a seven-day break, or more.”

Depending if there is a pre-finals bye, the grand final is set to be staged on Saturday, October 17 (Caulfield Cup day) or on Saturday, October 24 (Cox Plate day) should the bye, introduced ahead of the 2016 finals in a 23-round season, be retained.

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Round 14

Thursday, August 27
Hawthorn v Essendon, Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm AEST, 4.10pm ACST
Richmond v West Coast, Metricon Stadium, 7.10pm AEST
Friday, August 28
Western Bulldogs v Geelong, Metricon Stadium, 7.50pm AEST
Saturday, August 29
Port Adelaide v Sydney, Adelaide Oval, 1.45pm AEST, 1.15pm ACST
Fremantle v Greater Western Sydney, Optus Stadium, 4.35pm AEST, 2.35pm ACST
Melbourne v St Kilda, TIO Traeger Park, 7.40pm AEST, 7.10pm ACST
Sunday, August 30
Carlton v Collingwood, The Gabba, 3.35pm AEST
Gold Coast v North Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 6.10pm AEST
Byes: Adelaide, Brisbane

Round 15

Tuesday, September 1
Hawthorn v Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm AEST, 5.10pm ACST
West Coast v Essendon, The Gabba, 8.10pm AEST
Wednesday, September 2
Richmond v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 7.10pm AEST
Thursday, September 3
Sydney v Melbourne, Cazaly's Stadium, 4.40pm AEST
Greater Western Sydney v Carlton,Metricon Stadium, 7.10pm AEST
Friday, September 4
Brisbane v Collingwood, The Gabba (SEVEN) 7.50pm AEST
Byes: Geelong, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs

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Round 16

Saturday, September 5
North Melbourne v Port Adelaide, Metricon Stadium, 7.40pm AEST
Sunday, September 6
St Kilda v Hawthorn, Metricon Stadium, 1.05pm AEST
Geelong v Essendon, The Gabba, 3.35pm AEST
Western Bulldogs v West Coast, Metricon Stadium, 6.10pm AEST
Monday, September 7
Melbourne v Fremantle, Cazaly's Stadium, 7.10pm AEST
Tuesday, September 8
Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney, Adelaide Oval, 5.40pm AEST, 5.10pm ACST
Carlton v Sydney, Metricon Stadium, 8.10pm AEST
Wednesday, September 9
Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast, The Gabba, 7.10pm AEST
Byes: Collingwood, Richmond

Round 17

Thursday, September 10
St Kilda v West Coast, The Gabba, 7.10pm AEST
Friday, September 11
Geelong v Richmond, Metricon Stadium, 7.50pm AEST
Saturday, September 12
North Melbourne v Fremantle, Metricon Stadium, 1.45pm AEST
Port Adelaide v Essendon, Adelaide Oval, 4.35pm AEST, 4.05pm ACST
Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne, The Gabba, 7.40pm AEST
Sunday, September 13
Carlton v Adelaide, Metricon Stadium, 1.05pm AEST
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs, Adelaide Oval, 3.35pm AEST, 3.05pm ACST
Sydney v Brisbane, Cazaly's Stadium, 6.10pm AEST
Monday, September 14
Collingwood v Gold Coast, The Gabba, 7.10pm AEST

Round 18 (all venues, times TBC)

Adelaide v Richmond
Brisbane v Carlton
Collingwood v Port Adelaide
Essendon v Melbourne
Fremantle v Western Bulldogs
Hawthorn v Gold Coast
North Melbourne v West Coast
St Kilda v Greater Western Sydney
Sydney v Geelong

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